There is a guy I know who drives a hover round. It is essentially his everyday car. He is too disabled to drive his truck, but he does it anyway in the winter or when it is raining.
It is summer now and it is very hot. I saw him today when I went to the post office. He was riding around with shorts, in a short sleeved shirt, and no hat. I thought about giving him my hat. I can get another.
He isn’t well off. He’s nearly died a number of times. His ex wife just died, and he is mourning her terribly. He’s been homeless before, for at least two years. His living conditions aren’t ideal, but they are better than a shelter. He’s a veteran. He lives on Social Security.
So I feel sorry for him. But then I remember his tales of going to Tunica, Mississippi and gambling. I remember how he’s constantly buying lottery tickets. I remember that his wife divorced him because he was cheating on her.
He’s made some bad choices.
He has chosen to spend his money on gambling rather than a hat. He was homeless because he chose to cheat on his wife. He is retired from the military and has chosen not to seek aid from them.
I dislike the term “enabling”. It really should be “disabling”.
To assist someone in their addiction is not loving. I’ve called it “aiding and abetting a sin.”
I know other people who are getting older and have some chronic health issues that are getting worse. They moved to be closer to their children. One of their children suggested that they move into a condo or an apartment so they wouldn’t have to worry about yard work or maintenance on a house. They ignored this advice and bought a house. Now they call their children to come take care of the yard work and the house maintenance. They have both become infirm, and this situation will only get worse the older they get.
I feel that they have made a bad choice and that they are abusing their children by asking them to rescue them from a preventable problem.
I’m very frustrated. I want to help people, but I want to do it in a way that really helps, instead of keeping them in the same old ruts. I want to prevent problems rather than treat them. I don’t want to cure anything. I want to stop problems from happening.
I’m frustrated when someone gets surprised that they have lung cancer after smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years. This is how my Mom died. It was sad that she died at 53, but not tragic. She did it to herself. It wasn’t an accident. She knew that what she was doing was harmful but didn’t quit.
I took care of her after her diagnosis. I drove her to her chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I cooked. I cleaned. I watched her die, bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day.
That takes a lot out of you, to watch someone die from making bad choices. It takes a lot out to see their pain and regret and fear and know that you can’t rescue them. She put herself in that hole, and because of it she put herself in her grave.
It is Christ-like to help others without question. Jesus didn’t ask people if they created their own problems. He didn’t say to the lepers – why didn’t you stay away from lepers? You knew it was contagious.
I’m finding it hard to be Christ-like. I can’t just touch them and they are healed. We humans heal people in slow motion. We have to get involved. We have to get into it up to our arms. It is messy work, this business of healing.
I wrestle with it. Am I healing someone to make it easy for them to continue to make bad choices? Why should I wake up every day and go to work just to give someone else money when they refuse to look for work?
This isn’t very nice, but it is honest. This isn’t very Christ-like, but it is human.
All the child rearing books say there have to be repercussions to bad decisions. If you let them get away with it, you are encouraging it. They advocate tough love.
“Difficult Conversations” tells you how to speak up, so you can navigate the balance between not being a doormat or a tyrant. “Boundaries” says that Christians are taught to sacrifice their own needs and wants to take care of others, and that this isn’t healthy for either person. “Codependent No More” says something similar but it doesn’t go into the issue of Christian guilt.
Somehow this sounds like an excuse to ignore someone else’s pain. But then it is important to encourage them to stand on their own. If someone has to lean on you all the time, you aren’t helping them grow as a person. And you will find you are not growing either.
This being human is messy.
I think it is lucky for Jesus that he died at 32. He didn’t have so many issues to deal with. He never had to juggle work and aging parents. He never had to deal with his own chronic health problems. He didn’t have a history of being abused by his family.
It is hard to follow Jesus, and it is messy. We don’t do it right even half of the time. But when we figure out the balance it is beautiful and amazing. I’ve given up the church but I’ve not given up on Jesus. I don’t understand the Way but I feel it is a good path.
I fall, and I get up. I get distracted. I run away, just like Jonah. And yet I’m still on the path, all along. I think this is part of what it means to hear the call, and to follow Jesus. I want to do it right, and I know I’m not going to.
This is like exercise, like training for a marathon. But I’ll never get there because of the nature of the path. That is the price of being human.